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Five Reasons to Get the Flu Shot

Posted Oct 22 2010 6:55am

Nearly every year I ask my mother the same question: "Are you getting your flu shot?"

Inevitably, she has the same answer: "Not if I can help it."

flu-shot

My mother isn't some vaccination skeptic. She isn't lazy or afraid of needles. In fact, she knows how valuable flu vaccines are for public health: She's been a nurse for more than 30 years.

But the vaccination sometimes makes her sick, and, in the years she hasn't been required by her employer to get the vaccine, she's never contracted the flu.

Neither have I. Ever. But I get my flu shot anyway. You should, too. Here's why:

Vaccination is the most effective protection against the flu. Unfortunately, not everyone believes this. In a recent survey conducted by the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, 71 percent of respondents said there are other effective ways to prevent the flu.

According to a recent study , many older people—among the most vulnerable to the illness—don't get the flu vaccine because they believe that traditional methods such as hand washing and alternative medicine can protect as well as or better than the vaccine.

But this isn't true. While washing your hands can help keep you from getting infected, nothing is as effective as the vaccine in protecting against the flu, according to the Centers for Disease Control and numerous studies.

It probably won't make you sick (despite what my mother says). Only a small percentage of people who get the flu vaccine will have some kind of side effect, most frequently soreness at the site of the shot. Some people experience mild cold symptoms and fever for one or two days. Rarely, someone experiences an allergic reaction to the flu vaccine .

Someone around you may not be able to get it. This is why I've become a flu vaccine convert. Until a few years ago, I eschewed the shot. But my son is allergic to eggs, one of the reasons a person might not get the vaccination, which is grown in chicken eggs. In order to protect him from the flu—he also has asthma, which puts him in a high-risk category for flu—we try to cocoon him, surrounding him with people who've had the shot. Because you never know when you'll be around someone vulnerable like him or any infant under the age of six months, it pays to get the vaccine.

It's cheap. The flu shot typically costs between $10 and $50 a dose. But many employers offer them for free as do many community groups. Even at the high end, the vaccine is a bargain compared to getting the flu, according to cost-benefit studies . Getting the vaccine reduces lost work days and physician co-pays.

There's still time. Although peak flu season varies each year , February is typically the most active month. But the pesky bug begins showing up in October and hangs out until mid-May, which means it's never too early or too late to get the vaccination. Ask your doctor's office if they have the vaccination or use this handy tool to locate a dose near you.

For more flu vaccine basics, visit http://www.flu.gov/ .

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